Helping Children Get a Good Start to The School Year

In my practice, I often see children in the Fall who are having a difficult time adjusting to school – either behaviorally, emotionally, or academically. Parents ask me how to help their child cope and achieve more success in school. While there are a number of reasons a child does not have a smooth beginning of the school year, one thing that can help is to talk to your child about their experience from their own perspective. Especially in the beginning of the year parents can ease a child’s adaption to a new classroom, new teachers, and new academic demands by asking a few simple questions conveying that the child’s opinion is valuable and respected. Such questions (depending of the child’s age) might include: “How do you like school so far?” “Tell me about your teacher.” Tell me about the kids in your class.””What do you like the most about your school day?” “What do you like the lease?”
Regardless of what your child tells you, listen respectfully and encourage your child to problem solve and expect that situations can improve with time and work. Be a good listener and try not to negate your child’s opinions but at the same time offer some other ways of thinking about the situation.
Helping Children Get a Good Stat to the School Year
The end of summer and back to school can be a time of stress for parents and children. the American Psychological Assoication offers suggestions for families transitioning back to the school year. They include practicing the first day of school routine, getting to know your neighbors, talking to your child, empathizing with your children, and getting involved and asking for help.
American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association 08/19/201
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The Benefit of Physical Activity Before School

In my practice I treat many children with ADHD – most with the combined type which includes hyperactivity. It is significantly harder for these children to sit still in classrooms. However, in the general population of elementary school children I believe none of these students have enough physical activity during their day. Over the years, kids have been pressured to perform well for stat administered tests and every minute of their days become packed at school. There is simply not enough time for recess. Once children do have recess, the return cognitively and physically refreshed and are better able to focus and learn. So limiting recess time is counterproductive to learning as wll as health. As a child psychologist, I am an advocate for more recess in all elementary grades. Please see the article below for a novel way that some schools have added physical activity to their students; school days and the benefits they are seeing. Get moving!
Dr Judy

The Benefit of Physical Activity Before School
Many are familiar with the notion that it is beneficial for adults to get up and move about during their work day, but can the same be said for children? Children also find themselves spending hours in chairs during school time. Additionally, academic demands have decreased time that children could spend involved in extracurricular activities or outside. Now, researchers are evaluating a before-school physical activity program and its efforts to reduce BMI and strengthen emotional wellness in students from kindergarten to eighth grade.
Michael Schroeder, US News and World Report 3/29/2018
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How Does Personality Develop?

In my practice people often ask how a person acts is “just personality” or can a person change their behavior? The most recent theory of personality suggests that personality is a combination of inborn traits and an inborn need for three things: The need to predict our world, the need to feel competent, and the need to be connected. How a person goes about meeting those basic psychological needs may vary depending on some inborn traits. However, personality as we observe in others is probably a summation on an inborn style of “how” they go about meeting those three basic needs and the extent to which those basic needs have been met in their past. Therefore, when someone has a “bad” personality we can assume that if they learn to better meet those basic needs, their personality will undergo some level of transformation. That’s where therapy comes in!
Dr. Judy

How Does Personality Develop?
Questions surrounding personality have been debated for almost as long as psychology has existed. An article in “Psychological Review” examines how personalities develop. what is genetic and what part comes from experiences. The author suggests that personalities develop around basic needs, such as, the need to predict our world, the need to build competence to act on our world, and the need for acceptance from others.
American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association 02/13/2018
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Mass Shootings and Mental Health

In the wake of this most recent tragic mass shooting in Florida, there has been much discussion about mental health. We have been told that the shooter was mentally ill and his behavior was predictive of violence. Yet no group that dealt with him seemed to be able to “connect all the dots” and move with collective evidence to detain him and remove his access to guns.

What’s not being discussed much (and should be because it is key) is that there were very significant barriers to detaining him and taking his guns away. Laws, as they exist to protect people’s rights, need to re-examine when a person presents as a danger to self or to others.
Here is my summation of what needs to happen as a cohesive prevention plan.

  1. People who have serious enough emotional and behavioral issues to be considered unsafe and unacceptable to participate in public institutions such as schools, government, military, workplaces, AND have made threats of violence should be required by law to undergo mental health treatment until the treating professional deems the person is no longer a risk.
  2. Comprehensive mental health treatment must be made available for such persons, regardless of the cost, and the mental health professional must be given unconstrained decision making regarding the length of treatment.
  3. IF the treating mental health professional feels a person is an imminent danger to self or others, the treating professional should be free and REQUIRED to report this without risk of liability.
  4. Once reported, laws should allow for civil detention of the person until such time as all the “pieces” of the person’s history can be gathered and a mental health professional and law enforcement can assess the level of present and future danger.
  5. Lastly, but gravely important, any person who has been identified through this process should not be allowed to have ANY proximity to firearms (i.e. should not own then, should not live in a home with firearms, should not be able to purchase firearms, and should not be in proximity to anyone with firearms).

Until the current constraints on mental health professionals and law enforcement with regard to persons who are considered dangerous are reduced and until there is a mandate that all the pertinent data on such persons be gathered and presented in a court before the person is released, it is unlikely persons such as Nikolas Cruz can be stopped and such tragedies prevented.
Judith Andrews, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist

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Postpartum Anxiety or Normal New Mom Fears?

One expert describes motherhood as “the perfect storm for mood disorders such as postpartum anxiety and depression.

Allison McGill’s first six weeks with her new baby, Jack, were as smooth as they come. Jack was healthy and happy, and McGill enjoyed being a new mom.

“I didn’t have anxiety, I didn’t have lot of the things that would eventually take over my life,” says McGill, a 40-year-old District of Columbia resident and president of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Lazarus Ministries. “I was actually pretty calm.”

But that didn’t last.

While taking a walk with Jack along the Anacostia River last August, McGill had a vision of him falling in. From then on, she made sure to stay at least 15 feet away from the water’s edge. Later, McGill feared that Jack would fall out of her seventh-floor apartment window. ​After that, she insisted that Jack stay at least five feet away.

Next, compulsions​ set in. McGill often checked on Jack four times a night – even when he wasn’t crying. “I started to get worried that he would stop breathing,” despite the fact that the baby​ monitor indicated he was, she says.

McGill never stopped worrying. She was afraid, for example, that taking a phone call at a softball game would put Jack at risk for being hit by a ball. Afraid that if she didn’t constantly cradle his neck, it would snap.

“The thing that keeps going through my brain is that if I make one mistake with Jack, it could have tragic consequences,” McGill says. “The stakes were just up.”

Depression,​ which affects about 15 percent of new moms, is not the only mood disorder that can hit women ​after they give birth. About 10 percent of new moms have postpartum anxiety, and about 5 percent struggle with postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, according to Postpartum Support International.​ McGill had all three.

Read more of Allison’s story at US News & World Report

If you are concerned that you might be suffering from a postpartum mood disorder, get help. You can contact Dr. Judy at 281-788-7820.

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Do Criminals Have a Case of the Never-ending Terrible Twos?

Dr. Tremblay, a developmental psychologist at University College Dublin, likens criminals to the toddler who uses physical aggression to get what they want. The criminal is the person who has never learned to use any other resources. Brad Bushman, psychology professor at Ohio State University says that toddlers use physical aggression even more that individuals in violent youth gangs. By the time the violent child gets older, it is often too late to change behavior. In most children violence peaks at 24 months, steadily declines through adolescence, and plummets in adulthood. But what happens to the few that do not follow that pattern and remain aggressive?
David Dobbs, The New York Times 12/16/2013

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